I dug up several interesting datasets from Statistics Canada on the population of Toronto for various census periods since the 1800s. The chart below shows the population of the Toronto CMA for every year since 1821 (keep in mind I had to estimate population for some years in between the “census” periods).
Figure 1 – Toronto CMA Population, 1821 – 2016
Figure 2 – Year over Year Population Change of Toronto CMA, 1821 – 2016
I take away four major things from looking at these charts –
- Toronto is a fairly young city (region)! I think Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat said it best – “We’re still building Toronto!“
- Toronto is a constantly growing and changing city (region). Don’t expect things to stay the same. Don’t expect your neighbourhood or neighbours to look the same. So embrace the change!
- In fact, it’s quite funny when you read news articles or watch video clips about the City from 20, 30, or 70 years ago – you will see almost identical issues over and over again – too much growth; too much congestion/traffic; house prices too high; this city will fall apart if we don’t take any action; how will my children ever afford homes in Toronto?
- It is evident from the second chart that significant population spikes happened several times throughout the city’s history. Most notably in the 1820s, the 1830s, the 1880s, early 1900s, the 1950s and a smaller spike in the 1980s.
- There was a decline in population in only 10 of the 200 years of available population data for the Toronto CMA.
- Put another way, throughout 95% of its history, Toronto was growing.
I can’t with authority explain what happened at each of the individual periods to cause the population to spike, but I can take a stab at a few –
- 1880s I assume could be due to confederation;
- 1950s is likely due to the postwar baby boom and immigration;
- 1980s is likely due to strong economic growth, influx of immigrants, fear of Quebec leaving the country, etc.
I am however very curious as to what explains population spikes during the other periods, and would love to know from any of my readers whether they can explain the other population spikes, or further elaborate on the ones I attempted to explain.
Below are some additional charts that show population growth and annual percent change broken up by (roughly) hundred year periods – 1) 1821 – 1900, and 2) 1901 – 2016, to give some context as to the happenings in each individual century.
Figure 3 – Toronto CMA Population, 1821 – 1900
Figure 4 – Toronto CMA Population, 1901 – 2016
Figure 5 – Year over Year Population Change of Toronto CMA, 1821 – 1900
Figure 6 – Year over Year Population Change of Toronto CMA, 1901 – 2016
Statistics Canada, Census of Canada – pre 1971
Statistics Canada, Census of Canada – 1971 – 2016